The major knock on Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly heading into the 2012 NFL Draft has been his lack of athleticism and quickness. But this weekend's NFL Combine was Kuechly's chance to put his athletic ability on display for all to see.
Kuechly has been viewed by many in the scouting world as a superior tackler with great intangibles — whatever that actually means — but as having mediocre athletic ability. On Monday, Kuechly proved those critics wrong with an outstanding showing in Indianapolis.
The 20-year-old inside linebacker showed up at the combine five-pounds heavier, at 242, than his playing weight this season. The weight gain was by design, though, as Kuechly and a training instructor worked to add a few pounds of muscle onto his frame.
The addition clearly worked as the NCAA's tackling leader in 2011, with 191, showed off an impressive combination of strength and speed during Monday's workout.
Kuechly showed as the sixth-strongest linebacker in the group, putting up the standard 225-pound bench press 27 times during his session.
The normally poised Kuechly explained the added weight after his workout, adding that he felt he had something to prove at the Combine.
"I had to prove I was a sufficient size," Kuechly said in a Sporting News report. "The biggest thing is being able to move with the weight you have. That was something I’ve been working on."
And fast Kuechly was on Monday. Maybe not Robert Griffin III fast — he posted a 4.41 40-time on Sunday — but he was definitely quick for his position. The presumed step-too-slow Kuechly hit the track in blazing fashion, finishing third among linebackers with an official 4.58 40-yard-dash time.
Kuechly didn't expand much on his likely draft-soaring performance, but he did spend some time talking about what team's can expect from him on the field.
"I think I’m a smart player," Kuechly said. "I think I do a pretty good job preparing myself. That’s something I take pride in—being prepared and knowing what each individual guy is responsible for. I can point at guys and let them know what they’re doing if they have questions. Knowing what everyone is doing, you can play faster."
As the projected first linebacker off the board, Kuechly can only expect to rise even further up the draft pecking order after Monday's showing. His humble attitude and dedication to the game should only help the Cincinnati, Ohio native in interviews as well.
In just three seasons at Boston College, Kuechly set both BC and ACC records as the all-time career leader with 532 tackles. Kuechly also hauled in just about every defensive award known to man in 2011, as a consensus All-American and ACC Defensive Player of the Year as well as the recipient of the Butkus Award, Lombardi Award, Lott IMPACT and Bronko Nagurski Trophies.